Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Whirlwind Tour

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday afternoon, after a delayed trip down (our plane had to return to the gate before take-off when a mechanical problem was found) and since then, we have had a whirlwind tour of South Florida, from Miami to Delray Beach.

Our Spring Break visit has a purpose this year (besides sun and fun) -- our daughter is looking at colleges here. Rather than doing a big trip around the world last year before applying to colleges, we decided to let her apply where ever she wanted and then visit the schools once she was accepted and decided where she was interested. Over the process, she came to the realization that a big school was probably not for her, despite her earlier visions of going to a large college. So that made things a little bit easier. She wants to come to Florida because of the warm weather and the fact that we have family here, so she won't feel like a complete stranger in a strange land.

In between, we've been visiting with family. My cousin, the ex-nun, also happened to be in Miami visiting her brother, so we met her for lunch on Thursday on Lincoln Highway in South Beach for lunch after a college visit in Miami (pictured above). Yesterday we toured a college in Boca, had lunch with my parents who live near Boca and then spent the rest of the day wandering around Delray Beach with my brother, including an arts festival that happens to be there this week-end.

In fact, things have been so busy that I didn't even call my office -- a first for me (of course, a few clients did manage to track me down via my cell and I did check my email). And this is the first time I've had a chance to catch up on all the news and stuff to see everything I missed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It's That Time of Year

It's March. Spring has sprung. It's that time of year -- time to Head South, Young Woman (OK, so I'm not so young, but I am heading south).

For the past several years, I've managed to harken back to those days of my youth, by going back to Florida for Spring Break. It sure does bring back memories of college days, taking the train to Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break (before I advanced to the trips to the Islands).

I have a brother who lives in South Florida and my parents also live in South Florida most of the year, so an annual family visit is in order. Our college bound daughter is also looking at schools in Florida, so we're off to visit a few campuses.

The Breaking Point

A while ago, I wrote about my concerns that the primary race had reached The Tipping Point, where the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama threatened to do more harm than good for the Party. That we had reached the point where the Democratic candidates are doing the work of trashing each other for the benefit of neither -- the only one who benefits is He Who is the Anointed One as the Heir to the Throne. That is, while the Democrats battle it out, McCain can sit back, rest up, collect money and ammunition to use against the winner in the fall.

The Politico confirmed this in a recent story, Story behind the story: The Clinton myth, noting that despite the intense press coverage of the race:

One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning.
As though to prove them wrong, the Clinton campaign has been especially vicious in its tactics in the past few days. When Governor Richardson announced his support of Obama (which had to be a difficult decision for him because of his long term relationship with the Clintons), the response was brutal:
“An act of betrayal,” said James Carville, an adviser to Mrs. Clinton and a friend of Mr. Clinton.

“Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic,” Mr. Carville said, referring to Holy Week.

See First a Tense Talk With Clinton, Then Richardson Backs Obama.

Then there was the effort to portray Obama as hostile to Jews. According to The Atlantic's Political blog, in Obama And The Jews:
The Clinton campaign is distributing an article in the American Spectator (!) about Obama foreign policy adviser Merrill McPeak and his penchant for.. well, the article accuses him of being an anti-Semite and a drunk. Principally, the author takes McPeak to task for supporting a Middle East map that would require Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 border. It also makes the case that McPeak supports the Walt-Mearsheimer view of the influence of the Israeli lobby on foreign policy.

The author's sudden conclusion: 'Obama has a Jewish problem and McPeak's bigoted views are emblematic of what they are. Obama can issue all the boilerplate statements supporting Israel's right to defend itself he wants. But until he accepts responsibility for allowing people like McPeak so close to his quest for the presidency, Obama's sincerity and judgment will remain open questions.'
And, of course, Hillary Clinton herself has contributed to the Wright controversy by keeping the Wright fires burning. She has referred the Wright Reverend on several occasions in the past few days. That's Not Wright. Her Finance Committee Chair also compared Wright to David Duke. See TPM Election Central.

And most interesting of all, she was interviewed by the Editorial Board of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review (Richard Mellon Scaife's rag), where she says she was questioned about Wright. Even better Saife was in attendance, as noted by Talking Points Memo. I wonder if that before or after Scaife asked if she really killed Vince Foster, since he was responsible for spreading that vicious rumor about her, along with financing the years long campaign to ruin her husband, Bill Clinton. See The Odd Couple. In fact, her famous "vast right wing conspiracy" charge was a reference to Scaife. See Mr. Mellonhead. I bet he endorses her now, since she's gone over to the dark side.

According to ABC's Jake Tapper, in his Political Punch blog, it's all part of the campaign's intentional strategy to make a last attempt to prevail. It's was he labels the Tonya Harding Option:

The delegate math is difficult for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, the official said. But it's not a question of CAN she achieve it. Of course she can, the official said.

The question is -- what will Clinton have to do in order to achieve it?

What will she have to do to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, in order to eke out her improbable victory?

She will have to "break his back," the official said. She will have to destroy Obama, make Obama completely unacceptable.

"Her securing the nomination is certainly possible - but it will require exercising the 'Tonya Harding option.'" the official said. "Is that really what we Democrats want?"

The Tonya Harding Option -- the first time I've heard it put that way.

It implies that Clinton is so set on ensuring that Obama doesn't get the nomination, not only is she willing to take extra-ruthless steps, but in the end neither she nor Obama win the gold.

She's doing a damn good imitation, that's for sure. The only signs of hope is that Crooks & Liars reports that Harry Reid is planning to resolve this bitter fight before the convention, quoting a Review Journal piece:

No, it will be done. I had a conversation with Governor Dean (Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean) today. Things are being done.

From his lips to his ears, as Jon Stewart put it.

I can tell you that I've reached the breaking point. And I'm not the person you want to lose. I've always respected Hillary Clinton and have been a supporter of hers. And I do believe that she has been hampered in the campaign due to Hillary hatred and sexism. I think she would make an excellent president: she's smart, competent, experienced and tough. Although I've been leaning towards Obama, that's what has held me back. No more.

But I've had enough. Finis. Basta. I'm done. She is dead to me.

In fact, I'd like to say that I won't vote for her in the fall if she does do the dirty deed, but I know that's probably not true. Because, unlike Hillary Clinton, I'm willing to look beyond my personal desires to see what's good for the Party -- and the country.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cartoon of the Day

Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal Constitution

W/M 4-Ever More

With all the attention being paid to the Obama/Clinton race, we don't want to ignore old Johnny boy, now do we (with an emphasis on the word old, of course).

(Via Needlenose)

What Comes Next?

A time to celebrate. This is my 2,000th post since I began September 14, 2005.

Two years, six months and two weeks worth of essays, rants, cartoons, and assorted ramblings about life, liberty and the American way. Oh, OK maybe it wasn't all that. How about a few words about justice, peace and a few truths?

The best part is that after I took the picture, I truly got to celebrate by eating the M&Ms.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cartoon of the Day

Jeff Danziger, NYTimes

A Time to Mourn

I suppose that it was only fitting that, on Easter -- the day that the Christian faith celebrates the resurrection of Jesus -- would also be the date that the 4,000 death of American forces would occur. Roadside bomb kills 4, brings U.S. deaths in Iraq to 4,000. A milestone reached within a week of another grim anniversary, the 5th year of the Iraq War. War No More.

The American Friends Service Committee has a list of places where vigils of peace supporters are holding events, to commemorate the lives of U.S. Soldiers and Iraqis, see Wage Peace. For information on the vigil in Philly, see Philadelphia Regional Anti-War Network.

Whether you march or not, it's a time to mourn.

If Not Now, Never

After all of the damage, death and destruction that has been wrought by the Bush Administration during these seven long years, my main focus during the upcoming Presidential race has been considering which Democrat has the best chance to prevail and take back the White House and begin the overwhelming process of trying to fix the mess that George has made -- of everything.

The signs have been very good, with Bush's approval rating being evidence of anything but approval for his Administration and its policies, the fact that a substantial majority of the public is now against the war in Iraq, the realization that the Administration's policies have contributed to the economy's spiral downward, the denial of environmental concerns starting to impact us via global warming, and so on and so on.

Obviously, the GOP realizes that it is on its way out, since the number of incumbents in Congress announcing their retirement has been phenomenal. The private polls must show that defeat is so likely, it's not worth trying.

Despite all the signs, having had success wrested from the Democratic Party so many times, the tendency is to want to play it safe and look for the solid, but sure winner. The Party has been lucky with a number of very favorable, qualified candidates, each with substantial pluses to lead the country in the right direction. Fortunately for the Democrats, the poll of GOP options have been as tremendously bad as ours have been good.

Yet, McCain is the worst of the bunch. Although he is someone that the conservatives in the GOP don't like, he is someone that many moderates and independents (in both parties, as well as straight independents) do. Combined with the fact that the Democrats are busy beating each other up, that can only work to help McCain as he faces whoever the winner of the primary is.

Michael Silverstein of The Moderate Voice reminds me that, no matter what a particular poll shows on a particular day, the Democrats still have the overall advantage. His comments may pertain more to Obama, but I think the overall sentiment is true generally, Obama's Success: Voters Finally, Truly, Mad As Hell...:

How can one account for Barack Obama’s truly astonishing success in reaching for the American presidency?

It isn’t his speechifying. He’s an excellent speaker, but Jesse Jackson in his time was better. It’s not his personal story, which though in many ways inspiring, can’t match the heroic realism of John McCain’s. It’s not his stands on issues that are not noticeably different from Hillary’s. Nor is it the populist edge that has creeped into his campaign in recent months. John Edwards was way out front in this respect.

No, it all comes down to that one word that appears in bold letters on all his literature and just over his left shoulder at every speaking engagement. Change. And the change hinted at here is not the kind of change this country has seen several times in recent decades. Not like, for example, the change when Republicans took control of Congress after 40 years of Democratic majorities, or when an undistinguished actor cemented the union of media and politics when Ronald Reagan won the White House.

This change is something far more basic, far more fundamental, than a mere shift in political sentiment. It represents the full fruition of what was predicted in the movie “Network.” The arrival of the time when not just a few Americans, nor even one or two large groups of Americans are mad as hell and not going to take it any more. But a time when the majority of the country is that mad, that determined not to take it for one more election cycle, that it is willing to reach for a very visible symbol of its frustrations and anger.

And once the primary battle is done, with a focus on McCain providing us with 4 more years of George Bush, I think the choice will be a clear one (or it should be, dammit).

However, I also happened to read Digby at Hullabaloo, which made me also realize how monumental this election is. In discussing the Obama/Wright matter, she too notes this favorable climate for the Democrats. However, she adds, in Wright and Wrong:
The fact is that faced with circumstances that make the prospect of a victory easier than they could usually expect, Democrats have used that opportunity to break through some long standing barriers to blacks and women in spite of the fact that it would lessen their advantage. This is an unusual and counterintuitive step for a party out of power to take --- generally they go the safe route after being beaten two elections in a row and nominate the most mainstream candidate they can find. So, good for the Democrats for using their advantage to do more than just win an election. ( And truthfully, when else could they possibly do it? When the Republicans are on a roll?)
So true and so right. If not now, then we can never do it.

So let's just do it (pick one) and move forward. We need to win, so we can finally change things, which we desperately need. After all, like the rest of the public, I'm mad as hell and don't want to take it any more . . .

Sunday, March 23, 2008

And So They Blog, Against Theocracy

I've written my Easter essay in support of this year's effort, Blog Against Theocracy. I've also perused a few of the others and there are some excellent thoughts on the separation of Church and State. There are a few of blog posts I enjoyed, which you should check out:

Fran presents FranIAm: Blog Against Theocracy 2008 - The Choice Is Yours posted at FranIAm.

TomCat presents In Opposition to Theocracy posted at Mock, Paper, Scissors.

No More Mr. Nice Guy! presents Freedom for me, but not for thee posted at No More Mr. Nice Guy!, saying, "Why freedom of religion is vital for everyone, fundamentalists and atheists alike."

J Macdonald presents Macdonald's Animal Farm: A Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim... posted at Macdonald's Animal Farm, saying, "While I admit that the article is old, and that the article is actually a political cartoon I thought that I'd submit it and hope for the best."

thepoetryman presents OUR SEPARATION (Blog Against Theocracy) posted at A Poetic Justice.

Dr. Zaius presents He Who Stands On Tiptoe is Not Steady posted at Zaius Nation.

Stan A. Diabolos presents Separation of Church and State? posted at Emails From Jesus.

David Giacalone presents Easter weekend: blogging for religious freedom posted at f/k/a, saying, "A plea for legal webloggers to participate in BAT08."

And there's more, much more. Go see for yourself.

A Special Easter

And so the big day is here. The Easter bunny arrived, bringing chocolate cheer for our daughter's special day -- her 18th birthday. See Blackboard Jingle.

Last night, as she headed out to say farewell to 17, we observed the full moon and discussed how early Easter was this year. I noted that this may be the only time that she celebrates her birthday on Easter, so it was truly a special day for her.

I decided to do a little research & discovered that it was true:

In the Christian tradition, the first full moon of a northern hemisphere spring is called the Paschal Full Moon. The Paschal Moon is all-important for determining the date of Easter, a movable feast whose date changes from year to year. Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon. It was an early equinox this year – in part due to leap year. And the full moon came one day after. This upcoming Easter on March 23 will be the earliest date for Easter in all of the 21st century.

The last time Easter fell on March 23 was in 1913, and the next time won’t be till 2160.
From Earth & Sky, March full moon and equinox set date of Easter.

So Happy Birthday Easter to you, kooky.

The Easter Basket: Filled with Eggs, God & State

For true Christians, Easter is certainly considered to be a more important holy day than Christmas, but there is no contest that Christmas is the more celebrated holiday of the year. I guess it's because toys win out over peeps and chocolate every time.

That fact is another example of how we have mixed up the importance of certain traditions -- with respect to religion as well as government. Of course, I'm referring to the concept of the Separation of Church & State that is under challenge by the American theocracy.

The underpinnings of this attempt to intertwine religion and government is that some of our leaders (and their religious backers) argue that our nation was founded as a Christian nation and that God was always an integral part of our history as a country. The truth of this historical background does not negate the fact that the separation of Church and State was also determined to be necessary for the country precisely because of religious differences. Rather, the reality is that that separation was meant as "the great protector of religion, not its enemy." As historian Gary Wills has written, Meditating on the Church-State Divide, tolerance, and religious freedom -- which eventually led to the constitutional Separation of Church and State, was the result of a hard fought battle of principles by religious adherents, such as the Quakers, who were persecuted for their beliefs.

For a long time, that was the unquestioned law of the land. Then, as Mark Lilla says, in his NYTimes essay, The Politics of God:
The twilight of the idols has been postponed. For more than two centuries, from the American and French Revolutions to the collapse of Soviet Communism, world politics revolved around eminently political problems. War and revolution, class and social justice, race and national identity — these were the questions that divided us. Today, we have progressed to the point where our problems again resemble those of the 16th century, as we find ourselves entangled in conflicts over competing revelations, dogmatic purity and divine duty. We in the West are disturbed and confused. Though we have our own fundamentalists, we find it incomprehensible that theological ideas still stir up messianic passions, leaving societies in ruin. We had assumed this was no longer possible, that human beings had learned to separate religious questions from political ones, that fanaticism was dead. We were wrong.
So how did we get here? I believe that the American theocracy is largely comprised of the Evangelical ministers who operate as CEO's of their mega Churches. They are driven by mega-egos, looking for power and control -- and money, which they have amassed in huge quantities. For these zealots, religion is just the product that they are selling to the masses. Unfortunately, because of their power and money, they are also a major lobbying force in the conservative wing of the GOP. It is these "preachers" that need to be removed from a position of influence -- from in the Church and State.

And I find it somewhat ironic that as the fundamentalist minority tries to impose its evangelical views upon society, that the majority has in fact moved in the other direction (perhaps because of them). For example, an overwhelming majority of those polled during a debate on religion believe that "America is too damn religious." See, Is America Too Damn Religious? (and hear the debate at NPR). And organized religion is increasingly losing membership based upon a recent study of religious affiliation. See Swing Shift. As I noted there:

However, what is most interesting about the study is the fact that 'unaffiliated' or no religious preference is growing -- at the same time that the extreme religious right is trying to impose the equivalent of governmental sanctioned religion.

Based upon the clear trends, at some point, no religion will be the majority non-religion and perhaps we could then again adopt the separation of Church and State as the law of the land. What a concept that would be."

For previous essays in support of the Blog Against Theocracy, see Which Church Controls the State? and Keep the Church out of the State.

Cartoon of the Day

Bob Englehart, Hartford Courant

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cartoon of the Day

Jeff Danziger, NYTimes

You're Still Wrong

One more race-related post and I promise I'm done (famous last words). This one concerns a local flavor in the Bigotry In Motion contest, Joey Vento. I've written about the Philly cheesesteak owner, with the welcoming Speak English signs, several times before. See, e.g., here, here, here and here.

"The bottom line is that I didn't do anything wrong," said Vento, 68, who maintained that the sign was a political statement and that no customers were ever turned away. "It's a good victory." (Emphasis added).
So pontificated Vento about the decision of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to drop the discrimination case against him for his "Speak English" signs posted on his South Philly eatery. As reported by the Inquirer, Ruling: “Speak English” sign at Geno’s not discriminatory:
A city agency today dismissed a discrimination complaint against Geno's Steaks for its speak-English sign, halting a case that thrust shop owner Joey Vento into the national spotlight of the contentious immigration debate.

A split three-member panel of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations ruled that a sign in the South Philadelphia cheesesteak shop did not convey a message that service would be refused to non-English speakers.
Vento, you might not have done anything illegal, but it was certainly wrong. It's wrong to treat people the way you do, hurtful and unkind. You should remember how your grandparents were treated when the arrived from Italy, could not speak English and were like the foreigners that you belittle today. They would be ashamed of you. As I've said before, What's With My Paisans?

Of course, Vento doesn't care about the morality of the issue. In fact, Vento has basked in all the media attention that he's received for his ignorant ways. He is even featured in a Guardian piece on the Pennsylvania primary, Obama struggles to limit damage in pastor row as white voters slip away:

Listen for a few minutes to Joey Vento, owner of a south Philadelphia institution that serves gut-busting sandwiches through a takeaway hatch, and the scale of Barack Obama's problems become apparent. Obama is having the worst week of his campaign. It is, some believe, a week that threatens his chances of becoming president.

"That minister, that was terrible, all his sayings. He's preaching hatred," Vento said. "The thing I didn't like about Obama; you're telling me for 20 years you been going to that church and you never heard that?"

Vento, 68, was speaking about Obama's former pastor and spiritual adviser, Jeremiah Wright, whose sermons have been aired repeatedly on US television denouncing the US as racist.

The clips have alienated the white voters, such as Vento, that Obama needs in his next contest with Hillary Clinton, to be held in Philadephia and the other towns and cities of Pennsylvania on April 22. But it goes further than that. The danger for Obama is not just that he could lose badly in Pennsylvania but that senior Democrats will wonder whether the loss of white votes could cost him the November general election.

The latest poll in Pennsylvania by Public Policy Polling puts Clinton on 56% and Obama on 30%.
The best part is the quote of Vento criticizing Rev. Wright for "preaching hatred." Joey, you're a Catholic. You should worry that God will strike you down for your hypocritical, sinful ways. And you do believe in the afterlife (and you're not getting any younger either) -- God will remember and remind you of the hatred that you preached.

Even better, in the Guardian piece, Vento makes it sound like, but for this episode, Obama'd be his man. Not quite. In fact, what Vento doesn't say is that he was a Rudy Giuliani supporter, The Flag Flies, and that he probably already voted for him in the primary (his name was still on the ballot).

That is, what Vento didn't reveal during the interview is that he can't vote in the Pennsylvania primary -- for Obama or anyone else -- because he doesn't live here. He may own a South Philly business, but he's a South Jersey kinda guy. Right, he takes our money and runs -- across the bridge to New Jersey.

As was noted in the Philadelphia Weekly last summer, in Vento Venting:
“Joe Vento is neither the spokesman for South Philly nor a resident of South Philly. He's from South Jersey, as is his attitude.”

Gregory Mario Jacovini, editor of Ciao Philadelphia (formerly The Italian Newspaper), is annoyed.

He says Joe “Speak English” Vento, owner of Geno's Steaks, doesn't even begin to speak for the real South Philly. And he says the media's focus on Vento's confused ramblings distorts the picture of what's really happening in his neighborhood."

* * * *

And that's what's got 28-year-old Montrose Street resident Gregory Jacovini steamed.

“It's not a Philly attitude. It's definitely not a Democratic attitude. It's more of a Republican, suburban mentality to have that kind of animosity to newly arriving people.

But Vento's not into honesty either. He's a Republican after all.

The Middle-Aged White Man

I'm not exactly sure, but I don't think that what Barack Obama intended when he was talked about starting a dialog for a discussion about race in this country, that it should be the opening to let out the inner racist.

However, now that the word "race" has been spoken by Obama, it appears that the media machine feels that it has been granted the OK to make the race all about race. For example, Obama was interviewed on a local Philly sports radio show, Obama damage controlled?, and was asked about his grandmother, whom he referred to in his speech. He responded that she didn't harbor any racial animosity, but was merely "a typical white person" of her generation. The remark was parsed (all 3 words) and played and replayed -- even being cited as evidence that Obama's the real racist. Obama's 'typical white' remark on WIP offended some. See also, DAN GROSS: Wake Up White People!.

Of course, the truth is that the only people who would truly be offended by the remark is the "typical white person" who believes that political correctness is a conspiracy to inhibit their inalienable right to be a bigot. The rest of us understood perfectly what he said -- and meant -- by the phrase and don't disagree with his point.

Speaking of "white people" and the presidential race, John Edwards was on the Jay Leno show the other evening and although there was speculation that he might announce an endorsement of either Obama or Clinton, he held off. See Edwards unlikely to endorse. Instead, he discussed with Leno whether his choice to run as a middle-aged white man was a good idea.

If we're going to talk about race in the race, I'd much rather we do it the Leno way.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Vote Now

I originally posted this on March 12, but am reposting because today is the last day to nominate your favorite female blogger (next week will be the opportunity to vote on the final voting round). I just realized that you can cast your vote for more than one favorite blogger. I'm headed back to vote for another one on my list. So go vote today, before it's too late.


I've been meaning to mention this. As you can see by the widget/poster on the left, I have a link to Women's Voices Making History, which is soliciting votes for favorite female bloggers (during Women's History month). I really didn't put it there to solicit votes for myself. There are a lot of really good women bloggers who deserve more recognition, so be sure to vote for your favorite.

I've been reading blogs for many years -- back when I had to explain to my friends what a "blog" was. No surprise to anyone who knows me, my reading tends to be focused on political bloggers, with a liberal flavor of course. Other than that, my favorites have evolved over time (and keep growing). I don't normally focus on male vs. female bloggers -- I like well written, intelligent writers, with a bit of humor on occasion. Having said all that, here is my top 10 list of favorite female blogs:


Blue Gal

Suburban Guerrilla

Pam's House Blend ...always steamin'!

Rox Populi

Brilliant at Breakfast




Tennessee Guerilla Women

You should also check out the list at AMERICAblog.

You can nominate your favorite female blogger up until March 21 and then go back after that to vote for your favorite among our top 10 women bloggers. Go do it at Women's Voices Making History.

The Countdown Continues

Only 2 more days until Easter and the big 18th Birthday for the daughter.

See Blackboard Jingle.

Cartoon of the Day

Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News

The Harpies

Continuing the discussion of Obama's speech -- in his role as the Great Uniter -- the question is whether he was successful in his efforts to start the conversation, while being able to move forward with his race for the White House. Part 1 of the discussion is here.

The answer, my friend, is not just blowing in the wind, the answer is roaring in the rants of the media machine. As the Boston Globe article, Obama's odyssey on race, notes:

Obama's critics have also sought to sew the Wright controversy into a broader narrative about Obama's views on America, raising his decision not to wear a flag lapel pin and Michelle Obama's recent comment that this was the first time in her adult life that she was "really proud" of America. (Obama has said the pin became a substitute for true patriotism; Michelle Obama later said she meant to express pride in all the new voters participating in the primary process.)

But those who know Wright and Obama bristle at what they say is a caricature being painted irresponsibly by the news media.

"Out of that supposedly racist, nationalist, hateful church comes a man who has done more to pull people together, to talk about unity, give people hope, cause people to be inspired and patriotic like I haven't seen in my lifetime," said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, the outspoken white pastor of St. Sabina, a largely black Roman Catholic parish on Chicago's South Side.

Oh sure, blame it on the press. What, you think they just want to keep the controversy going as long as possible? Humm, let's see what Jon Stewart has to say on the matter:

If the right wing media machine were to be believed, Obama should just pack it in and concede to Hillary Clinton right now. The harpies are hard at work spinning the spin.

There is some good news however. It may be that the public is actually acting like adults, as Jon Stewart put it. According to the latest poll, Majority Doesn't Believe Obama Shares Wright's Views:

A new poll from Fox News, the first major poll taken since Barack Obama's big speech on race relations, shows that the effect of the Jeremiah Wright flap might not be so bad after all.

By a 57%-24% margin, registered votes do not believe that Obama shares Wright's controversial views. The internals show only 17% of Democrats saying Obama shares Wright's ideas, along with 20% of independents and 36% of Republicans.

A final note on the Stewart skit and the press reaction. In the clip from Part 1, one of the newscasters that questioned how the Rev. Wright would play to the voters in Ohio and Missouri. He notes that his quote was taken out of context, Screwed by The Daily Show. When he was grousing about that, he adds:

I told someone this morning this my version of what happened, and she laughed and said, "Now you know how the reverend feels."

The (w)Right Speech

As we know, Barack Obama went from being "not black enough" to being "too black" -- and unlike his SNL character, he didn't have any make up applied to darken his complexion. All it took were the words of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his paster at Trinity United Church of Christ, to appear in print and on radio, TV and the internet. See Point, Counter-Point.

Obama then gave his speech here in the City of Brotherly Love on race, which was favorably received by many in the main stream media, You, sir, are no Mitt Romney. As Nicolas Kristoff of the NYTimes said, Obama and Race:

Barack Obama this week gave the best political speech since John Kennedy talked about his Catholicism in Houston in 1960, and it derived power from something most unusual in modern politics: an acknowledgment of complexity, nuance and legitimate grievances on many sides. It was not a sound bite, but a symphony.

But the furor over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s inflammatory sermons shows that Mr. Obama erred in an earlier speech — the 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention that catapulted him to fame.

In that speech, Mr. Obama declared that “there is not a black America and a white America... . There’s the United States of America.” That’s a beautiful aspiration, and we’re making progress toward it. But this last week has underscored that we’re not nearly there yet.

This dichotomy is discussed in a Boston Globe piece, Obama's odyssey on race. In an ironic way, Obama's experience in the campaign parallels his experience throughout his life:

From the moment Barack Obama first inserted himself into black life in Chicago, he bore the hallmarks of an outsider: light skin; Ivy League education; international background; and views on race, history, and country that were at odds with the aggrieved worldview of much of the city's black community.

On the streets of the South Side, where the Black Panther movement, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson flowered, Obama was mocked as a dispossessed newcomer who failed to grasp the historical urgency of the black struggle. "The white man in blackface," a political rival once called him.

Though Obama would later convince many black skeptics of his commitment to justice and equality, he made clear he would not be bound by their antagonism toward the white power structure.

Despite charges of being not black enough, Obama has remained true to his principles of race relations, the same views he espouses today. Yet, he didn't turn his back on his community either, notwithstanding his more privileged background. It is this relationship that is the basis for the charges that he is too much a part of that community:

Today, Obama is under attack from the other end of the spectrum, accused of tacitly endorsing the Afro-centrism and deeply critical views of America expressed by his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. To those who know Obama and have followed the arc of his career, the charge makes little sense against a man they have long considered a beacon of a colorblind future.

But to critics, Obama's decision to associate himself for 20 years with a church that preaches black nationalism - an association that once helped establish his credibility in the black community - prompts serious questions about his patriotism, judgment, and allegiances.

Ahh yes. And there's the irony:
As Hopkins and others familiar with Obama's career watched his speech Tuesday, they were struck by the irony that a politician once considered too beholden to the establishment would now be condemned as such a threat to it.

"It's one extreme or another," said Naseem Abdul-Majib, a barber who knows Obama from his Hyde Park neighborhood. "Barack is balanced. Just like he stated in his speech, his story is a story you couldn't find anywhere else but here. It's a success story."
So, what does it all mean and where do we go with all this? For the man with all the answers, let's see what Jon Stewart thinks:

And then, since this is such a complicated issues, there's Part 2.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Don't Count Us Out

Self-styled "Legal Tabloid" Above the Law can't declare a winner in the contest it styles as New York and New Jersey in Competition for Dirtiest Governor Sex Scandal, after its initial assessment of each state's position (sexually speaking, of course):

New York and New Jersey's rivalry has spilled over into sex scandals. New Jersey started the battle way back in 2004. Then-Governor James McGreevey resigned and announced he was a "gay American," who had carried on an affair with a male aide. This month, New York belatedly responded, when Eliot Spitzer resigned as governor amid a prostitution scandal.
Of course, New Jersey didn't want to lose out after the Spitzer stunner, so it responded with the 3-way tryst with the McGreeveys, driven by their driver. As Above the Law noted:
So as far as nasty sex scandals, we declared a victory for New Jersey -- but then New York filed a petition for rehearing! The Daily News reports that new Governor David Paterson and his wife have both carried on extramarital affairs for years. . . .
Declaring itself overwhelmed, ATL took the matter under advisement, not yet declaring a winner. However, before a decision is rendered, I think Pennsylvania needs to be heard from. David Letterman exposed PA Governor Ed Rendell's own scandal:

(Video via PoliJAM Blog)

War No More

To some extent, I live a life that is very far removed from the Iraq War. I don't know anyone who has served and it has not directly affected me or my family personally. But the reality is that is not correct, because this War Without End has impacted us all. We are fast approaching the 4,000th death (with the current count at 3982 deaths) of US Service members serving in Iraq, and 30,000 injuries, with untold (and uncounted) deaths and injuries of Iraq citizens. In truth, the price (human, financial and otherwise) is enormous, as was recently detailed by the American Friends Service Committee, Cost of War: Priceless.

This blog, moreover, is an outgrowth of my anti-War views as the Bush Administration began its campaign to war with Iraq. Because of my skepticism of the media portrayal of the facts supporting the Administration's claims surrounding Iraq, I began to look elsewhere for information in an attempt to discover the truth. I began to read the international press and alternative media sources and then discovered blogs, which analyzed the Administrations claims about Iraq. Eventually, I began to record my own views on the War and politics in general.

In reflecting on this 5th Anniversary, I look back at other times in our history to find guidance. I realize that what we have wroth in Iraq is devastating to the country and its people, however, we cannot undo what is done. Nor can we fix it. We are still there today because we don't know how to go. But go we must.

As Walter Cronkite and David Krieger wrote at the close of 2007, Our Troops Must Leave Iraq:

The American people no longer support the war in Iraq. The war is being carried on by a stubborn president who, like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War, does not want to lose. But from the beginning this has been an ill-considered and poorly prosecuted war that, like the Vietnam War, has diminished respect for America. We believe Mr. Bush would like to drag the war on long enough to hand it off to another president.

The war in Iraq reminds us of the tragedy of the Vietnam War. Both wars began with false assertions by the president to the American people and the Congress. Like Vietnam, the Iraq War has introduced a new vocabulary: “shock and awe,” “mission accomplished,” “the surge.” Like Vietnam, we have destroyed cities in order to save them. It is not a strategy for success.

The Bush administration has attempted to forestall ending the war by putting in more troops, but more troops will not solve the problem. We have lost the hearts and minds of most of the Iraqi people, and victory no longer seems to be even a remote possibility. It is time to end our occupation of Iraq, and bring our troops home.
Those words echo Cronkite's earlier words on the Vietnam War in 1968:
To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.
See Firedoglake.

Barack Obama's speech on race yesterday here in Philly has been compared to the words of Martin Luther King. But it is King's address before the Riverside Church in Harlem that should be heeded today. King understood the difficulties in leaving when confronted with a war like Iraq when he preached, A Time to Break Silence (Declaration Against the Vietnam War):
'A time comes when silence is betrayal.' And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.
And finally, consider the words of Mark Twain, as he addressed the American conquest of the Philippines at the turn of the last century, Immorality & Idiocy, which ring just as true today:
I pray you to pause and consider. Against our traditions we are now entering upon an unjust and trivial war, a war against a helpless people, and for a base object--robbery. At first our citizens spoke out against this thing, by an impulse natural to their training. Today they have turned, and their voice is the other way. What caused the change? Merely a politician's trick--a high-sounding phrase, a blood-stirring phrase which turned their uncritical heads: "Our Country, right or wrong!" An empty phrase, a silly phrase. It was shouted by every newspaper, it was thundered from the pulpit, the Superintendent of Public Instruction placarded it in every schoolhouse in the land, the War Department inscribed it upon the flag. And every man who failed to shout it or who was silent, was proclaimed a traitor--none but those others were patriots. To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, "Our Country, right or wrong," and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?

For in a republic, who is "the Country"? Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant--merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn't. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Who, then, is "the Country"? Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Is it the school superintendent? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command, they have only their little share in the command. They are but one in the thousand; it is in the thousand that command is lodged; they must determine what is right and what is wrong; they must decide who is a patriot and who isn't.

The nation has sold its honor for a phrase. It has swung itself loose from its safe anchorage and is drifting, its helm is in pirate hands. The stupid phrase needed help, and it got another one: "Even if the war be wrong we are in it and must fight it out: we cannot retire from it without dishonor." Why, not even a burglar could have said it better. We cannot withdraw from this sordid raid because to grant peace to those little people on their terms--independence--would dishonor us. You have flung away Adam's phrase--you should take it up and examine it again. He said, "An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war."
And so another anniversary is marked. Four (No More) Years.

I looked back at our past, but Tom Engelhardt has imagined what the year ahead holds, looking ahead to next year's anniversary, The First Sixth-Anniversary-of-the-Iraq-War Article.

For thoughts and reflections of others, visit March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm.

Cartoon of the Day

Jeff Parker, Florida Today

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Queen for the Day

Queen Latifah

Born this day in 1970

This one is for Julie, who is not just a fan -- she wants to be the Queen. Of course, all of us who know and love her know that she is a Queen.

Obama on Race & Religion

After speaking last night at a dinner of the Society of Irish Women in Scranton, where Barack O'Bama revealed his Irish heritage to the crowd, Obama joins ‘green’ party, he announced that he's planning to give a speech today at the National Constitution Center in Philly on race and religion, Obama to deliver Phila. speech on race.

However, I have it on good information that the speech will not be what most people are expecting, a defining speech on race relations and the Rev. Wright. Instead, in what will no doubt be a stunning twist to the issue, Andy Borowitz reveals:

Buffeted by criticism of his controversial Christian pastor while continuing to quell rumors that he is a Muslim, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) took a bold step today to settle questions about his religious faith once and for all.

'I am converting to Judaism, effective immediately,' Mr. Obama told reporters at a press conference in Scarsdale, New York, adding that he would change his middle name from 'Hussein' to 'Murray.'

As a sign of commitment to his new faith, the Illinois Senator said that he anticipated being Bar Mitzvahed sometime between now and the crucial Pennsylvania primary and that he would no longer campaign on Saturdays.

In a subtle sign of the shift in his religious affiliation, Mr. Obama's signature catchphrase "Yes, we can," was nowhere to be found in his speech, replaced instead by "L'Chaim."

See Obama Converts to Judaism.

Of course, the next question pondered by the press will be whether America is ready for the first Jewish president.

UPDATE: For a video of O'Bama's speech before the Scranton Society of Irish Women, see Gort42. After acknowledging his Irish lineage, now we know where he gets his gift of gab.

War: What is it Good For?

As we approach the 5th Anniversary of the Iraq War, Dick Polman of the Inquirer reminds us of the ignoble day, Jaded by lies, public suffers war fatigue:

Hey, remember Iraq? Little dustup in the Middle East, launched by President Bush based on false premises, that's now costing this country $3 billion a week? A conflict now on the cusp of its fifth anniversary, which makes it the third-longest in our history, after Vietnam and the Revolutionary War?

We have reached the point where Iraq seems both omnipotent and under the radar. It has wreaked all kinds of havoc on our economy, roiled our relations with allies, and profoundly deepened the ideological divide in our politics - yet polls indicate that most Americans view Iraq as a second-tier issue in the '08 presidential campaign. This would appear to be a contradiction, but I think it is easily explainable.

There is a great temptation to simply tune out the war. That's what happens when people are jaded, exhausted and confused.

Polman pinpoints the issues, such as the fact that the mendacities supporting the start of the War -- and continue today -- have made us jaded, the breadth of the effort has exhausted us and the way out has confused us. Nor is this limited to the current occupant of the White House, as he notes:

Nor are the presidential candidates promising light at the end of the tunnel. McCain basically talks about "victory" and a long, indeterminate occupation, yet, in the tradition of the current president, he is vague about what constitutes victory. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton basically talk about withdrawal (Obama has a 16-month pullout timetable; Clinton vows to start pullouts within 60 days), yet both suggest that unforeseen events on the ground could seriously slow our exit. Indeed, Samantha Power, Obama's now-departed foreign-policy adviser, got in trouble for telling the BBC last week that the candidate's antiwar stump rhetoric might be trumped by events in 2009 - further proof that the biggest sin in politics is the uttering of an unscripted truth.

With no answers -- or end -- in sight, we would rather not hear about it. And we haven't had to, as Polman says:

No wonder so many Americans have been tempted to tune out. It's easy to do. Relatively few of us have been directly touched by tragedy, thanks to the absence of a military draft. Nobody has been called on to directly finance the war, because, in a radical departure from tradition, taxes have not been raised for that purpose. Nobody need worry about seeing the coffins of slain soldiers on TV, because the White House barred camera coverage long ago. Few bother to see the movies that Hollywood has made about Iraq - four tanked at the box office last autumn - because downers don't sell tickets.

* * * *

It has been said that, in war, truth is often the first casualty. But, with respect to this war without end, it is worse than that. After five years of wasteful bloodshed and diminishing options, we can no longer distinguish the false from the true.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cartoon of the Day

Jim Morin, Miami Herald

The Crazy Old Hothead

With all of the attention being paid to Senators Clinton and Obama in the Democratic primary, with the Republican race being decided, poor, old Senator McCain must be feeling a little bit left out.

Just so we don't forget about him, I thought I'd remind everyone that John McCain is "crazy old," as this SNL Special Report skit reports, citing such clues as his eating a buffet dinner at 4:30 PM, watching Wheel of Fortune and having a dish of hard-candy in his living room.

And then there's the McCain Quiz, Senator Hothead, by Paul Slansky in the New Yorker, which asks:

1. What did Richard Kimball, John McCain’s opponent in his 1986 Senate race, do during a debate that got McCain so upset that, according to his aide Jay Smith, he “wanted to kill” Kimball?

(a) He pointed out that McCain had referred to the retirement community Leisure World as “Seizure World.”

(b) He revealed that McCain was standing on a riser behind his podium.

(c) He said, “I’m not the one who left his disabled first wife so he could marry a rich young beer heiress.”

2. Who is Harry Jaffe?

(a) The writer who first called McCain “Senator Hothead.”

(b) The journalist who helped break the 1994 story of Cindy McCain’s addiction to Percocet and Vicodin, which led her to steal pills from a relief organization she’d founded.

(c) The reporter whose question prompted McCain to respond that he was “fine” with a hundred-year U.S. military presence in Iraq.

(d) The politician who said of McCain, “His volatility borders in the area of being unstable. Before I let this guy put his finger on the button, I would have to give considerable pause.”

* * * *

6. Two of these statements refer to Bush. Which refers to McCain?

(a) At thirteen, he yelled “Fuck this” when he played golf poorly, prompting his mother to make him go sit in the car.

(b) As a toddler, if he didn’t get his way he’d hold his breath until he fainted.

(c) When he was a boy, he liked to blow up frogs with firecrackers.

* * * *

15. Last year, McCain said, “When I voted to support this war, I knew it was probably going to be long and hard and tough, and those that voted for it and thought that somehow it was going to be some kind of an easy task, then I’m sorry they were mistaken.” What did McCain say before the war started?

(a) He told Larry King that “success will be fairly easy.”

(b) He told Wolf Blitzer, “I believe that we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time.”

(c) “It’s a safe assumption that Iraqis will be grateful to whoever is responsible for securing their freedom.”

(d) All of the above.
For answers and more quiz questions, go to The New Yorker.

(Video via The Raw Story and Quiz via The Liberal Doomsayer)

Second Best

From Juan Cole of Informed Comment:

I can still remember, as a child, the other children on the playground boasting that the US was the greatest country in the world, and the pride we all took from that. Predictably, George H. W. Bush's cokehead son has managed to reduce the US to the second largest economy after the eurozone. Bush was second best all his life, and has managed to make America second best.
But of course.

What do you expect from the Worst. President. Ever? After all, It's No Contest.

(Via Suburban Guerrilla)

The Wearing of the Green

St. Patrick's Day MySpace Glitter Images

I'm not really Irish, but I do feel entitled to celebrate St. Paddy's Day as the "adopted" daughter of an Irish family. Growing up, my neighborhood was mostly a mix of Italians and Irish (with my grandparents and a number of my aunts and uncles living on the same block). Although everyone lived together in peace, there still was an earlier version of segregation on Sundays -- each ethnic group had their own Church -- the Italians attended St. Anthony's Church and the Irish went to St. Vincent's (and they were located just a few blocks away from each other). Of course, there was also a smattering of Protestants, such as the Clintons' United Methodist Church, which was a block up the street from my house. See All Roads Lead to Scranton.

The older couple who lived across the street from us was Irish, the McCauleys, who were parents of 5 boys, including a priest (of course). I was the age of their grandchildren, but I was the daughter they never had. People in the neighborhood called me Judi McCauley (and some of the older people still do). I was so much a part of the family that I had my own room at their house. I spent a lot of time there, especially since they had a library filled with books that I hadn't yet read. I always vacationed with them, when they traveled to visit their various children and their families.

It was Matt McCauley who taught me a love of the Irish, especially the music (such as Danny Boy) and the stories and lore. Like any good Irish lass, I've visited the homeland, Ireland.

Of course, my hometown of Scranton itself is a great place to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, with the parade and annual Friendly Sons of St. Patrick Dinner. This year, Hillary Clinton attended the parade, of course. See Parade-goers adore Hillary. In her honor, the bars opened 2 hours later than their usual 7 a.m. opening time for the pre-parade libations. Ireland's Prime Minister Bertie Ahern addressed the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick Dinner in Scranton on Sunday.

In honor of my Irish heritage, I'll be wearing my green today, wishing all:

Beannachtam na Feile Padraig

Sunday, March 16, 2008

She's On a Roll

Gee, I hadn't heard anything about Geraldine Ferraro in years and now you can't shut her up! At least this time, she's off the Lucky To Be Black routine.

Of course, she's still Outspoken and unapologetic as the Providence Journal notes:

While refusing to talk about her controversial comment about Obama, she made the audience pause when she took a shot at how Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — a Republican and the second black judge to sit on the court — gained admittance to Yale University’s law school.

“Take a look and think about Justice Thurgood Marshall,” said Ferraro, referring to the first black judge to sit on the high court, “who drew on his life experiences as an African-American and as a civil-rights activist to write some of the greatest civil-rights decisions of the sixties and of the entire century.”

Then she said that she did not think Thomas showed the same “sensitivity” as Marshall.

Thomas, Ferraro said, acts as a rubber stamp for conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and “votes against affirmative action, which got him into Yale.”

I do believe that there is disagreement over whether Thomas is a "rubber stamp" or stands on his own as an ultra-conservative, but there is no doubt that he is a bitter old man, resentful of the fact that he advanced through his career with assistance of affirmative action. See Jeffrey Toobin's New Yorker review, Unforgiven. He reminds me of the 1st and 2nd generation descendants of immigrants who are against open immigration policies, not wanting others to receive the same benefits. Ever Onward.

As for Ferraro, now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for outspoken and feisty. Nor am I necessarily an advocate for political correctness, so long as being non-pc isn't an excuse for bigotry, which it all too often is. Unfortunately, some people just don't know the difference. I'm just not sure where I'd place Ferraro on that scale. On the other hand, I can't disagree with the problems regarding sexism that she raises. As the article observes:
At the beginning of her speech, Ferraro said her candor and “frank” tongue sometimes caused her difficulties with the media and more politically correct politicians.

* * * *

She also said that women had come a long way since her years in the U.S. House, to which she was elected in 1978 and where she served until 1985. Ferraro said that during her years in Congress, she thought she would see a woman elected president before a woman became speaker of the House, which happened last year when California Rep. Nancy Pelosi won the post.

The reason? The House, Ferraro said, was “such a male-dominated” institution when she was there that she never believed it would change much.

There was only one woman in the Senate — Nancy Landon Kassebaum, of Kansas — when she served in the House, Ferraro noted. Now there are 16. “We have made progress, but not enough … considering that we are 51 percent of the population,” said Ferraro.

While Ferraro is considered a pioneer in the history of women in American politics, her stint as a vice presidential running mate was something of a disaster. The Mondale-Ferraro ticket went down to one of the most crushing defeats in American presidential electoral history. The Democrats won only Minnesota, Mondale’s home state, that year while Republican Ronald Reagan won a 49-state sweep to reelection.

Cartoon of the Day

Mike Keefe, The Denver Post

Back At You

A few weeks ago, on SNL's Weekend Update, Women's News segment, Tina Fey gave one of the best lines of the campaign season, referring to Hillary Clinton -- Bitch is the New Black.

Giving equal time to the contrary view, Tracy Morgan responds. As Malcolm of My Two Cents notes, Tracy Morgan SNL Line:

Tracy Morgan, on tonight’s episode of Saturday Night Live, gave what I consider to be a new “classic line”.

Acting as a guest on the “Weekend Update” segment, Morgan said:

“…my friend Tina Fey was on the show a few weeks ago talking about Hillary Clinton, and said ‘Bitch is the new black’”

“… I love you Tina, but guess what… black is the new President, Bitch”

Classic word play.
True that. Now this is the sort of Point, Counter-Point I can appreciate.

A shorter clip of the video can be found at My Two Cents.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Blackboard Jingle

As the blackboard notes, the countdown begins.

This is a year of many milestones in the life of our daughter. She turns 18 on Easter, she's graduating from high school and she'll be heading off to college in the fall. Fun times, exciting times and times of change.

I've mentioned before that we live in the West Mount Airy section of Philly, with lots of big old homes. Ours is big, but not McMansion-sized. Stone house, built circa 189o. Although the house is old, it has lots of charms -- fireplaces & pocket doors (that still work), a fabulous sun room and wrap around back porch (with a swing), rounded dining room & 3rd floor balcony. As everyone who sees it says, it's the perfect home for me -- and for all of the antiques I've collected and inherited over the years.

However, we do have some of the modern amenities as well. Our kitchen was an addition to the home, built by the people who lived there before us. It is a bright, airy kitchen, with lots of windows and skylights and it has all the stuff that any cooking aficionado would yearn for -- a Viking stove, Bosch dishwasher, Sub-zero refrigerator. It's something I would never have done (being allergic to most kitchen duties myself), but I must admit that I do like having it.

One of my favorite parts is the blackboard refrigerator. It's great for writing notes, to do lists and assorted fridge art. It a fun way of noting the happenings and holidays and celebrations in our family. With all of the upcoming events, the blackboard will be put to good use.

Call for Help

So I've had my say about Geraldine Ferraro and the Reverend Wright.

Now, for the last word on the subject, John Stewart's You're Not Helping -- Campaign Edition. As always, he gets it just right.

As Stewart says, "Please, can we stop making this campaign about race and patriotism and different candidate's supporters and get back to focusing to what it's about -- the black guy and the lady."

Point, Counter-Point

It sometimes seems like the Democrats are engaged in a game of Point, Counter-point. We bounce from one to the other. Of course, the latest examples are from Ferraro for Clinton, to Wright for Obama.

My on-line/off-line friend Susan emailed me about the latest foray into the game -- the controversy over the remarks of Obama's minister, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. My friend expressed her concern about what the future will hold for Obama, observing that, in addition to the efforts of the Clinton camp to attack Obama, the right-wing conservatives have already begun to slime him:

After the last couple of days of listening to the repeated (and re-repeated, and re-re-repeated, and so on) plays of selected bits from Rev Wright's sermons, I have a sinking feeling about Obama's prospects with anyone other than blacks and over educated secular humanists like us. I predict a sizeable enough portion of the voting public is going to be believe he is both a Muslim terrorists and an acolyte of Christian Minster Wright and Louis Farrakhan, or at least use his pastor's sermons as a convenient way to rationalize their purely ignorant hateful racism.
The Washington Post has provided a hit parade of Wright quotes, in case anyone had missed them, Preacher With a Penchant for Controversy, such as:
"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. . . . America's chickens are coming home to roost."

-- Sermon, September 2001

* * * *

"Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us. No, he ain't. Bill did us just like he did Monica Lewinsky."

-- Sermon, January 2008

And then there are the Editorials like this one by Ronald Kessler in the WSJ, Preacher With a Penchant for Controversy:

In a sermon delivered at Howard University, Barack Obama's longtime minister, friend and adviser blamed America for starting the AIDS virus, training professional killers, importing drugs and creating a racist society that would never elect a black candidate president.

The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor of Mr. Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, gave the sermon at the school's Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel in Washington on Jan. 15, 2006.

"We've got more black men in prison than there are in college," he began. "Racism is alive and well. Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run. No black man will ever be considered for president, no matter how hard you run Jesse [Jackson] and no black woman can ever be considered for anything outside what she can give with her body."

Mr. Wright thundered on: "America is still the No. 1 killer in the world. . . . We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns, and the training of professional killers . . . We bombed Cambodia, Iraq and Nicaragua, killing women and children while trying to get public opinion turned against Castro and Ghadhafi . . . We put [Nelson] Mandela in prison and supported apartheid the whole 27 years he was there. We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God."

* * * *

Considering this view of America, it's not surprising that in December Mr. Wright's church gave an award to Louis Farrakhan for lifetime achievement.

* * * *

Hearing Mr. Wright's venomous and paranoid denunciations of this country, the vast majority of Americans would walk out. Instead, Mr. Obama and his wife Michelle have presumably sat through numerous similar sermons by Mr. Wright.

Indeed, Mr. Obama has described Mr. Wright as his "sounding board" during the two decades he has known him. Mr. Obama has said he found religion through the minister in the 1980s. He joined the church in 1991 and walked down the aisle in a formal commitment of faith.

The title of Mr. Obama's bestseller "The Audacity of Hope" comes from one of Wright's sermons. Mr. Wright is one of the first people Mr. Obama thanked after his election to the Senate in 2004. Mr. Obama consulted Mr. Wright before deciding to run for president. He prayed privately with Mr. Wright before announcing his candidacy last year.

Mr. Obama obviously would not choose to belong to Mr. Wright's church and seek his advice unless he agreed with at least some of his views. In light of Mr. Wright's perspective, Michelle Obama's comment that she feels proud of America for the first time in her adult life makes perfect sense.

Besides the fiery sermonizing, the truth is Wright is mostly correct about which he speaks. See Barack Obama's appeal to the rational brain and Yes, this is a Racist Country, and Saying So is Not Racist. Frankly, using Ferraro's line, if he were white and expressed similar opinions, he'd be a celebrated Evangelical minister and he'd be best buds with many Republican politicians. Think Jerry Falzwell. Think James Dobson and Pat Robertson. Think John Hagee and Rod Parsley.

Of course, in line with the new required standard of conduct, Obama has now publicly stated that he disagrees with the sentiments expressed by Rev. Wright. He blogged about it, no less, on the Huffington Post, On My Faith and My Church, saying:

The pastor of my church, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who recently preached his last sermon and is in the process of retiring, has touched off a firestorm over the last few days. He's drawn attention as the result of some inflammatory and appalling remarks he made about our country, our politics, and my political opponents.

Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.

Can we believe his words? Are you kidding? Seriously, is there truly any intelligent person out there who believes that Barack Obama harbors those views? No, but that doesn't stop people from trying to link him to those opinions to hurt his chances -- either in the primary or the general election. Repeat it often enough, it might convince enough people -- you know, the Archie Bunker's of the world.

I can't begin to say how ridiculous it is to hold either candidate to the words of a supporter and the latest trend of requiring the candidate to disavow the orator is asinine. I've mentioned this before, in admitting that some of my best friends are Republicans. See I Know a Republican. These relationships haven't affected my views even a little bit, trust me. Hell, I rarely agree with the political leanings of my mother -- do I have to reject her altogether in order to maintain my standing as a liberal feminist?

Also, to make my point clear, my previous objections to the statements of Geraldine Ferraro don't necessarily extend to Hillary Clinton -- unless there reaches the point at which it becomes a pattern of conduct that can be attributed to the Clinton campaign itself or the candidate. When it reaches that point is where I draw the line, as I mentioned in another essay on this issue, The Tipping Point.

Will this, as my friend Susan fears, cause Obama to become damaged goods and de-rail his chances in the election (primary and/or general)? I suppose if he survives these attacks, it will only make him stronger, which he will need to be to survive the fall onslaught of dirt and dastardly deeds by the GOP that are sure to come, if he is the candidate.

UPDATE (3/17): Echoing my comments that if Rev. Wright were white, he'd be a "darling of the Republican Party," one of the founders of the Religious right, Frank Schaeffer, observed Obama's Minister Committed "Treason" but When my Father Said the Same Thing He Was a Republican Hero:
When Senator Obama's preacher thundered about racism and injustice Obama suffered smear-by-association. But when my late father -- Religious Right leader Francis Schaeffer -- denounced America and even called for the violent overthrow of the US government, he was invited to lunch with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush, Sr.

Every Sunday thousands of right wing white preachers (following in my father's footsteps) rail against America's sins from tens of thousands of pulpits. They tell us that America is complicit in the 'murder of the unborn,' has become 'Sodom' by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children. They say, as my dad often did, that we are, 'under the judgment of God.' They call America evil and warn of immanent destruction. By comparison Obama's minister's shouted 'controversial' comments were mild. All he said was that God should damn America for our racism and violence and that no one had ever used the N-word about Hillary Clinton.